Few are better than Guided by Voices at writing potent, rich, catchy rock songs. Throughout the 21 razor-sharp chunks o’ rock over 41 non-stop minutes on “Let’s Go Eat the Factory,” the indie progenitors whose lo-fidelity, highly addictive sound has attracted one of the most intensely devoted fan bases this side of the Grateful Dead somehow embody the entirety of rock history. At its best the Ohio group recalls a combination of early Who energy, classic Beatles harmonies, and, as on the superb Joy Division riff-off, “Cyclone Utilities (Remember Your Birthday),” a keen sense of punk and post-punk history.
As is always the case with lead singer Robert Pollard and Guided by Voices, the lyrics are, to put it generously, obtuse. When you can make out the words — the production style is flat and virtually monophonic — they often pour forth evocations or, as others may call it, abstract gibberish. Like on “Imperial Racehorsing,” the lines “animal action, animal taste/animal traction, all over the place/animal virtue, all over my face” is followed by the non sequitur chorus, “Now she’s fighter, now she’s fighter.”
“Let’s Go Eat the Factory” offers a few sonic augmentations that may leap out at fans of the classic “Bee Thousand”-era GBV. A few hint at a “Sgt. Pepper’s” vibe, but if the Sergeant were crammed in a cluttered suburban basement with a string section in a corner near the washer and dryer. The highlight is the epic (by GBV standards) 31/2 minute song “Waves,” a magnetic rock workout featuring a primal chord progression. But, as is the case with most Pollard releases, it’s hard to pick a best moment, because catchy new favorites pop out with each successive listen, timed to explode in incremental bursts.